Taking action requires time and effort. The more choices you have, the more time and effort goes into making a decision.
This compulsive desire of making the right choice brought you here to understand the difference between “Ketogenic diet” and “Paleo diet”.
Let's have a look at it...
To fully understand Keto and Paleo diets, one must take a step back and look at the dieting issue from a wider angle.
I am sure at some point in your life you bought a pair of running shoes.
You made your choice among various brands and, in order to do that, you had to get informed about shoes.
I am sure you are no shoe expert but, for the very fact you bought at least one pair of running shoes, you are qualified to answer this question:
Which is the difference between Nike and Adidas running shoes?
Before you continue reading, take a moment to think about that… really, what’s the difference?
Unless you are a Brand Advocate or a running fanatic, those shoes both serve the same purpose and you’ll hardly find good reasons to explain why one is better than the other, or how they differ significantly.
When you are running, you are looking for shoes that are comfortable, protect your feet, allow you wearing them for a prolonged time with no harm for your toes and heels.
It is hard to argue that both Nike and Adidas don't do an excellent job at this. You will have a hard time finding a meaningful difference until you change the scope of your search.
If the shoes have to match your bright yellow running outfit… then Nike might have a better chance.
You see? ...it is not anymore about just running.
While running was the master-purpose, there is a variety of secondary criteria we subconsciously use for making decisions. Those criteria are what, in the end of the story, dictates the actions we take.
So my question to you is: which is the purpose of your diet?
Think about it but do not answer yet...
I brought two major Brands as an example because “ketogenic” and “paleo” are just like brands when we talk about them in broad terms.
A Brand is defined by what people say, think, feel about its products. In the same way, there are ideas, content, feelings associated with both ketogenic diet and paleo diets. This somehow distorts the reality of what ketogenic and Paleo diets really are.
The ketogenic diet was born as a treatment for epilepsy. It was found that being in a ketogenic state helps to cope with epilepsy.
When carbs are not available, the body naturally starts to burn fat to produce energy (this is why we store fat in the first place). In the fat burning process, some particles called ketones are released into the bloodstream, initiating what is known as “nutritional ketosis”. Ketones can be used by the cells to make energy and they can effectively replace glucose for that purpose.
This process of creating energy is much more efficient than using glucose and it results in better neural activity, hence fewer seizures.
Nutritional ketosis is a natural and healthy process and it is the very reason why we are still alive today. In fact, the Man is the only animal capable of using ketones as source of energy. It is believed this capacity is an evolutionary feature we developed to feed our big brain in the times of food scarcity.
There are a number of benefits coming from being in ketosis and running on fat consistently. These benefits include:
- increased mental focus;
- increased stamina;
- less appetite and cravings;
- higher energy levels.
Due to these many benefits, ketogenic diets began to appeal to athletes and all those people that in search of a healthier and active lifestyle.
Note that a “pure” ketogenic diet does not necessarily produce weight loss. In fact, it does not produce weight loss at all.
In a standard ketogenic diet, it is recommended to eat about 70% of fat, 20% of proteins and only 10% of carbs. These percentages refer to a normal caloric consumption of about 2000 kcal/day.
I am sorry to break your dream of fat binges and consequent weight loss... but in order to lose weight you need to eat much less than 2000 kcal/day and so, if your primary goal is to drop belly fat, those percentages have to be changed (a lot).
I covered this topic in depth in an article about the ideal ratio of macronutrients for fat loss. If you are here to get rid of excess fat, I warmly suggest you go read that.
In the article, you'll find that a ketogenic diet can be hacked to produce massive and almost effortless weight loss. If this is what you are after, you can dig deeper into Ketogenic diet and forget Paleo in the first place.
The Paleo diet has its roots in the conviction that man is supposed to eat what Nature provides. It took million years for the Man to evolve and for all that time we have been eating in a certain way. In the past few hundred years, we totally changed the way we eat, introducing processed foods, sugars, tons of carbs.
Paleo folks surely have a point. Keep in mind that the Paleolithic is a prehistoric period that covers roughly 95% of prehistory, going from 3.3 million years ago till about 10000 years before present. That is a loooot of time!
In this period the Man lived in small groups and used stone tools to gather and process food.
The Paleo diet is a practical approach to eating healthy (if it didn’t kill us in million years it surely won't harm us now) and, as all ideological movements, it tends to get a little bit overdone when it becomes very popular.
There are entire sections of the web dedicated to the Paleo diet and there are communities actively discussing (arguing) what one is supposed to eat and what not.
In my opinion, this does not bring much value to the table, especially if your goal is not going to be a purist of Paleo but to lose weight efficiently and starting to live a healthier life.
Which brings us back to the question I asked before: which is the purpose of your diet?
Can Paleo diet help you to get healthier?
Yes, as Paleo is actively promoting eating less processed foods, it can indeed help you to get in better mental and physical shape.
Will Paleo help you to lose weight?
That my friend depends exclusively on how much you eat.
In fact, the guidelines of Paleo diet will tell you what you are supposed to eat but won’t give you specific limits on quantities. Remember, Paleo is all about the idea of eating like our ancestors... and cavemen did not have scales or calorie counting apps.
On a Paleo diet, you are free to eat meat, fish, animal and vegetable fat, vegetables, legumes, fruits. You can see how that this can easily get out of control in today’s world where food is available 24/7 on every street corner in exchange for a little money.
Focus on Ketosis
The most interesting aspect of this comparison (Keto versus Paleo) comes out when you remove the “branding” and focus on the effects.
As a matter of fact, a Paleo diet can be ketogenic, meaning it can bring you in a state of nutritional ketosis. All you have to do is to start to avoid carbs at all, making it a low carb or zero carb diet. In that case, the Paleo diet becomes a particular type of Ketogenic diet, characterized by the absence of processed food and the strong preference for organic products.
Note that the strong “natural” mindset behind Paleo has a lot in common with other food ideologies like Vegetarianism or Veganism… only in a more meat-friendly way.
Ketogenic diets are instead free of any ideology and the ultimate discriminant for this type of dietary regime is: will it bring you in ketosis or not?
If so, we can call it ketogenic diet… no matter if you are eating meat, nuts or living just on fresh air.
As I wrote before: semantics.
The only relevant and important aspect of this differentiation is the question we left unanswered a few paragraphs above:
Which is the purpose of your diet?
If you are looking for information with the goal of losing weight then you better learn more about ketosis and its benefits. In fact, ketosis is the only way to guarantee your body will burn fat effectively.
Once you know more about ketosis and ketogenic diet, you are totally free to follow a Paleo approach (I do that myself)... OR, once you grasp the mechanics behind the "branding", you can customize your diet as you wish and use any food you feel comfortable eating.
Speaking of which, you might want to have a look at my list of superfoods for a ketogenic diet.
This list was compiled keeping in mind the importance of assuming enough nutrients while on a low-calorie diet and at the same time minimizing the amount of carbs contained in the food we eat.
Coming back to the question of Ketogenic diet versus Paleo, you should by now understand that:
- the two dietary regimes serve different purposes;
- a Paleo diet can be ketogenic;
- Ketogenic diets can be hacked to produce massive weight loss... so yes, also the Paleo diet can produce remarkable weight loss if you one stays carbs-free.
In the end of the story, in order to burn fat effectively and to produce the beneficial side effects of more energy and increased stamina, a diet has to put you into nutritional ketosis, hence it shall be ketogenic. As a matter of fact, a paleo ketogenic diet can be an effective way to lose weight.
However, whether you get into ketosis with a Paleo menu or Vegetarian or Vegan, has little importance.
For the sake of completeness I shall mention two things:
- getting into ketosis with a Vegan menu can be tricky as vegetables always come loaded with carbs. In practice, you'll have to limit quite much the amount of food you eat.
- the best way to get into ketosis is daily fasting.
Finally, a good source of information about paleo diet is the website http://thepaleodiet.com.
If you want to make your everyday life complicated by chasing down organic ingredients and eat like cavemen did, there you can find both theory and recipes.
If you want to keep it simple, while still super healthy and efficient, you can stick with a regular ketogenic diet, eventually boosted with daily fasting.
NOTE that even “paleo intermittent fasting” is a thing and it can deliver great results as long as you make it ketogenic.
If you want to know more about ketogenic fasting (daily fasting to induce nutritional ketosis) you can join the 10-days email course where I explain all the details of the process. The course is absolutely FREE of any charge.